Freedom of Expression on the Internet: Study of Legal Provisions and Practices Related to Freedom of Expression, the Free Flow of Information and Media Pluralism on the Internet in OSCE Participating States by Yaman Akdeniz [Report of the OSCE Represen…

Abstract: Based on the limited effectiveness of state laws and lack of harmonization at international level (despite some efforts at regional level) a number of states, including some in the OSCE region, introduced policies to block access to Internet content, websites deemed illegal, and Web 2.0 based social media platforms which are outside their jurisdiction. In short, the new trend in Internet regulation seems to entail blocking access to content if state authorities are not in a position to reach the perpetrators for prosecution or if their request for removal or take down of such content is rejected or ignored by foreign law enforcement authorities or hosting and content providers.Furthermore, in certain countries, governments went further and developed measures which could restrict users’ access to the Internet. This new blocking trend has been triggered in a number of countries as a result of increased piracy and intellectual property infringements on the Internet. These developments, as well as new policy trends in Internet content regulation are detailed in this study.While the intention of states to combat illegal activity over the Internet and to protect their citizens from harmful content is legitimate, there are also significant legal and policy developments which directly or indirectly and sometimes unintendedly have a negative impact on freedom of expression and the free flow of information on the Internet. Recent laws or certain legal measures currently under development have provoked much controversary over the past few years.Concerned with such developments, the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media commissioned a report to assess whether and how access to and content on the Internet are regulated across the OSCE region by examining existing laws and practices related to freedom of expression, the free flow of information and media pluralism on the Internet. This first OSCE-wide Internet content regulation study also provides a comprehensive overview of existing international legal provisions and standards relating to media freedom and freedom of expression on the Internet. The study aims to assess whether and how these provisions are incorporated into national legislation by the OSCE participating States.The report also assesses the compliance of applicable national Internet legislation and practices with existing OSCE media freedom commitments, Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights (where applicable) as well as the case-law of the European Court of Human Rights.

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